After more than three days of continuous search efforts, the U.S. Navy suspended operations to locate a Sailor assigned to guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem (DDG 63) at 4 p.m. Japan Standard Time Aug. 4.
Ships from the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force and People’s Liberation Army (Navy) also participated in the search, demonstrating the common bond shared by all mariners to render assistance at sea.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with our lost shipmate, their family and the officers and crew of USS Stethem,” said Rear Adm. Charles Williams, commander, Task Force 70. “I appreciate greatly the dedication and professionalism shown by all who participated in the search efforts.”
The Sailor, identified as Lt. Steven D. Hopkins was reported missing and assumed overboard USS Stethem (DDG 63) Aug. 1, at about 9 a.m. At the time, Stethem was conducting routine operations about 140 miles west of Subic Bay, Republic of the Philippines. Hopkins, a Texas native who received his commission at the Citadel in May 2009 and reported to Stethem in July 2017. Hopkins’ previous tours include USS Ramage (DDG 61), USS Normandy (CG 60), and Operational Test and Evaluation Force.
Helicopters from Japan Maritime Self-Defense Ship JS Izumo, as well as U.S. P-3 Maritime Patrol Aircraft, flew multiple search missions, while Stethem, USNS Vice Adm. K.R. Wheeler, USNS Amelia Earhart, Izumo, JS Sazanami and two People’s Liberation Army (Navy) frigates searched the surface. The Joint Personnel Recovery Center Hawaii provided additional distance support.
“After an extensive search, with help from the JMSDF and PLA(N), we were unable to locate our Sailor,” said Capt. Jeffrey Bennett, commander, Destroyer Squadron 15. “I offer my deepest condolences to the Sailor’s family, friends and the Stethem Steelworkers.”
The U.S. Navy, Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force and People’s Liberation Army (Navy) spent 79 hours in a comprehensive search that covered roughly 10,000 square miles.
An investigation is currently underway.
(South China Sea – NNS)